New Testing Options for Homeschoolers: Part 3 (of 3)

Part 2 described a parent’s attempts to clarify the problem of homeschoolers’ test scores being viewed skeptically by some high school admissions people. Part 3 describes how PAHSI came up with some new options.

Beginning in the winter of 2012, PAHSI went about looking for a proctoring option that might produce a more convincing paper trail than, for example, having a certified teacher come to the home.

We tried two big-name tutoring companies. Sylvan Learning Center said it would require a $100 fee for a 2-3 hour “proctor-session” (which seemed pretty steep to us), and didn’t respond when we asked whether more than one family could split the cost or get a discount. Huntington Learning Center never got back to us.

We tried a private Waldorf school, which said no. A Christian school and a Montessori school didn’t answer our emails.

We didn’t try any Catholic schools because we’d previously found out (when inquiring about whether a homeschooler could take the NYS ELA at one of them, instead of at a public school) that they can’t do much without the approval of the Archdiocese.

To an acquaintance who happened to teach at an expensive private school that one PAHSI person had long ago attended on full scholarship, we proposed that this teacher administer a test at that school. He emailed back, “Unfortunately, the present administration is rather touchy about such things and it’s extremely unlikely that they’d allow the use of the school or its name on any testing that is not directly administered and supervised by the admissions office or the ERS staff.” (We think he meant ERB – Educational Records Bureau, which does testing for independent school admission.)

You’d think that some school somewhere would be willing to provide a proctor, if only as a way of bringing in a little extra money (assuming they’d charge the parent a modest fee). But: nope.

And then someone suggested something brilliant. What NYC institution, devoted to the public good and not directly tied to any school, has employees who are widely regarded as trustworthy in the area of education, though they are not teachers?

The New York Public Library!

It wasn’t easy. We had to make several phone calls to several libraries. The initial reaction was confusion, and a hesitation to open up the existing test proctoring service beyond its traditional clientele – adults taking tests like (we imagine) the CLEP tests. But by August of 2012 we had finally arranged for a test to be administered at a public library, by a librarian.

The parent ordered the test from the test provider and had it mailed to the librarian. The librarian administered the test and mailed the bubbled-in answer sheet back to the test provider. The test provider sent the resulting test scores to the parent.

PAHSI also created a new form (we’re calling it the Test Administrator Confirmation form).

This form includes the name of the test and test provider, and the date and location of the testing. It says, “I received the test listed above directly from the test provider, followed the instructions in administering it, and returned the completed test to the provider.” The test administrator/proctor (whether it’s a librarian or someone else chosen by the parent) signs it and provides contact information. The parent can then submit the form along with the test scores to the high school (or other entity).

Down at the bottom of the form, it says, “Note: This form is not required by local education authorities, but is provided by Partnership for Accurate Homeschooling Information (PAHSI) to parents/guardians for their optional use in the admissions process for schools or programs of their choice.”

The testing went fine, a less-busy time of the week and day having been chosen far in advance. The parent had arranged for the testing to be spread out over two days.

The kid sat at a reserved table in the reference room and the librarian worked nearby at his desk, coming over at the end of each test section. The only noise problem was a library patron once calling out across the room for help with the photocopier.

The kid was able to tell the librarian which section of the test he wanted to work on next, and the kid and the librarian each used a timer. The parent alternated looking for books in another section of the library and reading in a chair on the other side of the room.

Now, this is not a firmly established NYPL policy. As of this writing (February, 2013), it’s been just the one kid who’s used this service and the new form (and he didn’t even end up applying to high school, at least not yet).

So we hope that parents will proceed carefully and not ruin this for others by making an appointment for testing and not showing up, bringing along too many raucous younger siblings, or any one of myriad nightmare scenarios. Librarians can be busy people, and we want to make this easy for them.

The price for the proctoring is right – it’s free!

We don’t anticipate that, even in NYC (with its vast and byzantine “School Choice” program that sets it apart from some of the more rural areas of NYS), a huge percentage of homeschoolers will want to bother with this kind of proctoring.

After all, lots of families homeschool through high school, or apply to high schools that either don’t require test scores or use a test like the SHSAT (Specialized High School Admissions Test). And some high schools, summer programs, etc., will simply accept test result sheets with no additional paperwork.

We also don’t yet know how the Brooklyn Public Library or the Queens Library (both of which are in NYC but are not part of the New York Public Library system), or any library systems outside of NYC, might react to a request for proctoring.

But it’s a good option to have on tap for those who want it. We encourage anyone interested in this to contact us for more details, or share with us whatever information they have.

This is the last part of a three-part post. Please send any comments or questions to comments@PAHSI.net. To be notified by email when new content is added, look on this page for “Subscribe to blog via email.”